Social Media and Well-Being: A multi-disciplinary dialogue
Social media are an integral part of people's lives, and the way social media are used may influence, and be influenced by, their well-being. The study of social media and well-being is complex and depends on different cultural, contextual, sociological, methodological, and practical factors. Scholars from different disciplines and cultural backgrounds interested in the complex nature of social media use and well-being call for more consensus on what and how to study in the context of social media and well-being. Some of them have discussed pressing conceptual, methodological, and practical issues in a previous workshop on “Social media use and well-being” hosted by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in April 2022 at the Harvard Faculty Club (Cambridge, MA, U.S.). Building upon the main consensus points previously delineated by scholars, institutions, and the social media industry mainly located in the U.S., this workshop on “Social Media and Well-Being: A multi-disciplinary dialogue” aims to continue the conversation in the European context. Enlarging the invite to scholars from different disciplines and cultural backgrounds is crucial to better study the complexity between social media use and well-being. The workshop is jointly organized by the Università della Svizzera italiana, the Amsterdam School of Communication Research, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the Lee Kum Sheung Center for Health and Happiness and will be hosted from 26th to 28th June 2023 by the Università della Svizzera italiana in Lugano (Switzerland).
Key questions to be addressed during the workshop
- What do we know about the cultural, contextual, and socio-economic factors related to social media use and well-being?
- What kind of research designs, including data collection, measures, analysis, and outcomes are appropriate to study social media and well-being?
- How can we translate research into practice through interventions and policymaking?
Organisation team and invited scholars
Member of the organisation team
Mesfin Bekalu is currently a research scientist in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. He holds a PhD in Social Sciences with a focus on health promotion and communication from the University of Leuven in Belgium. Broadly, his research investigates the role of media and communications in health promotion and disease prevention efforts. His recent research has focused on digital technologies and well-being, taking a two-pronged approach on the role of digital technologies in population health. The first approach focuses on the link between digital media (e.g., social media) use and well-being (physical, mental and social), and the various individual, social and contextual factors that moderate and mediate the link. This approach takes a more holistic and innovative perspective in conceptualizing, defining, and measuring individuals’ digital media use experiences and concomitant mental health and well-being outcomes. The second approach investigates the use of digital technologies in general and social media in particular as a tool for health promotion and disease prevention interventions. This effort employs concepts and strategies from other social science disciplines such as political science, marketing and behavioral economics to fully understand the potential and limits of using digital technologies for health interventions.
Dr. Bekalu has led and co-led several national and global large-scale collaborative research projects successfully and has published widely in referred scientific journals. He has mentored junior investigators and undergraduate and graduate students in public health.
Member of the organisation team
Ine Beyens is an assistant professor in the Amsterdam School of Communication Research (ASCoR) at the University of Amsterdam. Her research focuses on the effects of screen media on the emotional, psychological, and social well-being of children and adolescents. Ine is founding member of Project AWeSome, an interdisciplinary project that investigates the effects of social media use on various aspects of adolescents’ well-being. Within this project, she co-developed an idiographic (social) media effects approach. In her work, Ine employs intensive longitudinal data collected through experience sampling methods, to capture what adolescents do, feel, and think during their daily life.
Member of the organization team
Nicole Bizzotto is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in health communication funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF). Her research project focuses on aspects of online support groups in the field of mental health (The Perils of Peer Advice: How Internet Support Groups Can Do Harm to Depression Patients). Nicole previously obtained a bachelor's degree in Cognitive Psychology from the University of Trento and a double master's degree in Cognitive Psychology for Health Communication (Università della Svizzera italiana, Vita-Salute San Raffaele University of Milan).
Member of the organization team
Anne-Linda Camerini is Researcher and Lecturer at the Institute of Public Health (IPH), Università della Svizzera italiana, Lugano. She holds a Master's degree in media studies and a PhD in health communication. Her research focuses on the role of digital media in the development and well-being of children, adolescents, and young adults, which she explores using innovative methods for data collection and analysis. She has been the PI of several research and science communication projects largely funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation, including MEDIATICINO, Digital Lives, and "Siete connessi?". Anne-Linda Camerini is an Associate Editor of the European Journal of Health Communication.
Member of the organization team
Laura Marciano holds an SNSF Postdoc Fellowship position at Harvard Chan T.H. School of Public Health, Boston (USA), where she studies the link between digital media use and happiness in young people. She has a Master's degree in Psychology, with a specialization in Cognitive Neuroscience, obtained at Vita-Salute San Raffaele University in Milan with Menzione ad Honorem. In October 2021, she defended her PhD thesis in Health Communication at USI Lugano, in which she investigated the link between digital media use and personality. She is the main investigator of the HappyB project.
Member of the organisation team
Peter J. Schulz is Full Professor of Communication Theories and Health Communication at the Faculty of Communication, Culture and Society, Università della Svizzera italiana. In his work, he has sought to bring together thinking from the humanities, social sciences, and information technology to investigate important issues in health communications. His recent work in the field of health communication research focuses on the acceptance of Artificial Intelligence both among clinicians as well as among the public, on misinformation in the health domain, on health literacy and empowerment, doctor-patient communication, and on media effect in the health domain such as the impact of Internet use on adolescents’ health. He has published more than 200 articles on health communication in a multitude of peer-reviewed publications. Together with Paul Cobley, London, he is an editor of the Series Handbooks of Communication Science (HoCS, 35 volumes, Berlin: DeGruyter & Mouton). Since 2017 he is also Honorary Professor at ANU (Australian National University, Canberra), since 2022 Joint Visiting Professor at LKC School of Medicine and at Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, and at the Department of Communication & Media at Ewha Womans University, Seoul, South Korea.
K. "Vish" Viswanath
Member of the organisation team
K. “Vish” Viswanath is Lee Kum Kee Professor of Health Communication in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health (HSPH) and in the McGraw-Patterson Center for Population Sciences at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI). He is also the Director of Lee Kum Sheung Center for Health and Happiness, Harvard Chan. Other additional administrative and scientific leadership positions held by Dr. Viswanath include Faculty Director of the Health Communication Core of the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center (DF/HCC), Director of the Center for Translational Communication Science, DFCI, and Director, Harvard Chan, India Research Center. He is the founding Director of DF/HCC’s Enhancing Communications for Health Outcomes (ECHO) Laboratory.
Dr. Viswanath’s work is driven by two fundamental concerns: (a) how to center equity in drawing on translational communication science to promote health and well-being for ALL population groups, and (b) to involve community-based organizations and stakeholders in promoting social change.
The ultimate goal of the program of research is to influence public health policy and practice through knowledge translation. His work draws from literature in communication science, social epidemiology, and social and health behavior sciences.
His work so far has documented the relationship between communication inequalities, poverty and health disparities, and knowledge translation to address health disparities. He has written more than 300 journal articles and book chapters concerning communication inequalities and health disparities, knowledge translation, public health communication campaigns, e-health and digital divide, public health preparedness and the delivery of health communication interventions to underserved populations. He is the Co-Editor of four books and monographs: Mass Media, Social Control and Social Change (Iowa State University Press, 1999), Health Behavior and Health Education: Theory, Research & Practice, 5th Ed. (Jossey Bass, 2015), The Role of Media in Promoting and Reducing Tobacco Use (National Cancer Institute, 2008) and A Socioecological Approach to Addressing Tobacco-Related Health Disparities (National Cancer Institute, 2017) and a co-author of The First 1000 Days of Life: Lessons from Social and Behavior Change Communication. He was also the Editor of the Social and Behavioral Research section of the 12-volume International Encyclopedia of Communication (Blackwell Publishing, 2008)
In recognition of his academic and professional achievements, Dr. Viswanath received several awards including the Postdoctoral Mentor of the Year Award from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Joseph W. Cullen Memorial Award For Excellence in Tobacco Research, American Society for Preventive Oncology, the Dale Brashers Distinguished Mentorship Award, National Communication Association, Outstanding Health Communication Scholar Award jointly given out by the International Communication Association and the National Communication Association, the Mayhew Derryberry Award from the American Public Health Association (APHA) for his contribution to health education research and theory, and the College of Liberal Arts (CLA) Alumnus of Notable Achievement, University of Minnesota. He delivered the 23rd Annual Aubrey Fisher Lecture at University of Utah in 2009, and the Bettinghaus Endowed Lecture at Michigan State University in 2023. He was elected Fellow of the International Communication Association (2011), the Society for Behavioral Medicine (2008) and the Midwest Association for Public Opinion Research (2006).
Prabhat Agarwal is the Head of the ‘Digital Services (Programme Office & Societal aspects)’ Unit at the European Commission's DG CONNECT, responsible amongst other for regulatory initiatives such as the Digital Services Act and the Digital Markets Act (the latter jointly with DG Competition). Prior to joining the Commission, Prabhat Agarwal worked on micro and nano-technologies in the private sector. Prabhat Agarwal holds a PhD on Condensed Matter Physics from the University of Cambridge, and lives in Brussels.
Dr. Johannes Breuer is a senior researcher in the team Survey Data Augmentation at GESIS - Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences (Department Survey Data Curation) in Cologne, Germany, and (co-)leader of the team Research Data & Methods at the Center for Advanced Internet Studies (CAIS) in Bochum, Germany. His disciplinary background is a combination of communication science and psychology (in which he holds a Ph.D. from the University of Cologne). His current work focuses on the use of digital trace data and linking them with survey data. His other methodological and substantive research interests include the uses and effects of digital media (esp. information-seeking, news consumption, and entertainment), computational methods, and meta-science.
Nicole B. Ellison is the Karl E. Weick Collegiate Professor of Information in the School of Information at the University of Michigan and is currently the Editor-In-Chief of the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication. She received her PhD in Communication Theory and Research from the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication. Nicole's research has explored social and interpersonal aspects of online technologies and computer-mediated communication, including research on self-presentational strategies used by online dating participants; the role of social media in reshaping college access patterns for low-income and first-generation college students; and the ways in which users employ the communication affordances of Facebook to receive and give social and informational support to members of their network. This research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the National Academies of Science.
Marco Gui is associate professor at the Department of Sociology and Social Research and director of the “Digital Wellbeing Research Center” at the University of Milano-Bicocca. His research focuses on examining social and individual disparities in internet usage, the digital transformation of educational institutions and the relationship between digital media use and well-being. His scholarly contributions have been published in reputable journals such as New Media and Society, The Information Society, International Journal of Communication, Social Science Computer Review, Computers in Human Behavior, Computers & Education. He is co-founder of the "Digital Pacts" project, which coordinates more than 40 groups of parents and educators across Italy. Their efforts aim to implement local agreements on collective digital limitations and training for families with children and pre-adolescents.
Kathrin Karsay is an Assistant Professor for Media and Health Communication at KU Leuven, Belgium. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Vienna in 2018, and her research focuses on media effects, media psychology, and the presence and impact of mediated body ideals. Dr. Karsay's current work investigates the relationship between 1) digital disconnection and psychological well-being and 2) social media influencers' role in adolescents' health behavior (HISM). Her research has been published in esteemed communication and interdisciplinary journals, including Media Psychology, Telematics and Informatics, New Media & Society, and Computers in Human Behavior. Her work has also garnered several awards, including the ICA Kyoon Hur Dissertation Award, and has been funded by competitive research grants from institutions like the Austrian and Belgian Science Foundation.
I am a developmental psychologist studying the risks and opportunities of growing up in a digital world. I currently work as Research Fellow in the Department of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry at King’s College London. My current research cuts across the disciplines of child and adolescent development, mental health, clinical interventions, and human-computer interactions and has two main strands.
First, I examine whether digital interventions can provide a solution to the growing problem of the lack of psychological support for parents, who may have a difficult time bringing up their children. Within this strand, I work with parents, clinicians, app developers and other researchers on developing and testing digital applications supporting parents both in the community (see the SPARKLE project) as well as in the clinical services (see the OPTIMA study).
Second, my research investigates whether, why and for whom digital engagement is a risk or protective factor for mental health (see the DIORA study). This strand of research aims to provide a comprehensive characterisation of the associations between adolescent digital engagement and mental health and identify some of their underpinning mechanisms.
Julia Krasko completed her PhD at the Ruhr University in Bochum, Germany. Her research focuses on definitions of happiness and well-being in the philosophical and psychological literature and in lay people, as well as on various aspects of the pursuit of happiness and well-being. Furthermore, she is also interested in social relationships, attachment orientations and scale construction and psychological assessment.
Giovanna Mascheroni PhD in Sociology, is a sociologist of digital media, and Associate Professor in the Department of Communication, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore. She is the leader of WP6 in the H2020 project ySKILLS, and the PI of DataChildFutures, a national project investigating the data practices of Italian families with young children. Her work focuses on the social shaping and the social consequences of digital media and datafication for children and young people. She has published extensively in international journals (including New Media & Society, Journal of Children and Media, Social Media & Society, and Information, Communication & Society) and edited volumes. Her latest book, Datafied childhoods: Data practices and imaginaries in children’s lives, co-authored with Andra Siibak, has been published in Autumn 2021 in the Digital Formations series (Peter Lang).
Adrian Meier is Assistant Professor for Communication Science at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität (FAU) Erlangen-Nürnberg, Germany. He received his BA (2013), MA (2015), and Dr. phil. (2020) in communication science at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, Germany. His research investigates the psychological effects of media and communication technology on mental health and well-being. In his work, he focusses on self-regulation, social comparison, and interpersonal processes and employs experience sampling, digital behavioral data, and systematic review methodology. While most of Adrian’s past work focused on adolescents and young adults, his current research examines the role of social media for well-being at the work-home interface and the workplace. Adrian’s work has been published in leading journals at the intersection of communication and media psychology (e.g., Journal of Communication, Communication Research, Media Psychology, Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication). He serves on the Editorial Boards of Media Psychology, Journal of Media Psychology, and Mobile Media & Communication and is Secretary of the ICA Communication & Technology Division.
Christian Montag works at the intersection of psychology, neuroscience, behavioral economics and computer science. He is particularly interested in digital phenotyping, mobile sensing and digital biomarkers. Moreover, he studies technological use disorders and attempts to understand how social media can be improved.
Christian Montag received his diploma in psychology in September 2006. In 2009, he achieved his PhD, and in 2011, the venia legendi for psychology. As a post doc he also carried out research at the SCAN-lab at Stony Brook University, NY, USA. Since September 2014, he has been a Professor for Molecular Psychology at Ulm University, Ulm, Germany. From to 2016-2022 he was a visiting professor at the Neuscan lab at the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China in Chengdu, China.
He is a (co-)author of over 340 peer-reviewed international papers and serves on the editorial board of Personality Neuroscience, Molecular Psychology, Digital Psychology and Addictive Behaviors. He is a co-editor of the book series “Studies in Neuroscience, Psychology and Behavioral Economics” at Springer. He published his latest English book “Animal Emotions” at Punctum Books in 2020 and his latest German popular science book on the data-business-model behind social media applications “Du gehörst uns!” at Blessing.
Dr Amy Orben is a Group Leader at the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit and Fellow of St. John’s College at the University of Cambridge. She completed her DPhil at the University of Oxford and MA at the University of Cambridge and now directs an internationally renowned research programme investigating the links between mental health and digital technology use in adolescence. Dr Orben’s work is supported by key national and international funders, charities and foundations, and she advises governments, health officials and public servants around the world, holding appointments on the UK government’s Department for Science, Innovation and Technology College of Experts and the British Academy Public Policy Committee. She has received a range of prestigious awards including the Medical Research Council Early Career Impact Prize (2022), British Psychological Society Award for Outstanding Contributions to Doctoral Research (2019), Society for the Improvement of Psychological Science Mission Award (2020), British Neuroscience Association Researcher Credibility Prize (2021) and UK Reproducibility Network Dorothy Bishop Early Career Researcher Prize (2022).
Dr Douglas Parry is a Senior Lecturer in Socio Informatics at Stellenbosch University in South Africa. As part of the Cognition and Technology Research Group in the Department of Information Science his research is interdisciplinary and focuses on a broad spectrum of media uses and effects and generally concerns the interplay between digital technologies, human behaviour, and mental health and well-being (i.e., stress, anxiety, depression, cognitive control). As such, his work is situated across the social, management, and technical sciences and he is an active participant in research communities within the disciplines of Communication, Psychology, Human Computer Interaction, and Information Systems. Recently, alongside research in substantive media effects questions, his research has focused on a number of key methodological issues in research with digital technologies. His research routinely combines quantitative, qualitative, and computational methods, and follows open science practices whenever possible. His research has been published in leading journals in Socio-Informatics (and related fields), such as: Nature Human Behaviour; Journal of Communication; Technology, Mind and Behaviour; Information Technology & People; Computers & Education; and Computers in Human Behaviour.
Mariek Vanden Abeele
Mariek M. P. Vanden Abeele (PhD, U of Leuven) is Associate Professor in Digital Culture at imec-mict, Ghent University (Belgium). Mariek combines media psychological and media sociological perspectives to understand the role that digital media use play in everyday life and society. She received a 2020 European Research Council Starting Grant for her work on Digital Wellbeing.